In the cool interior of a mental ward in Karachi, a short, powerfully built man with a flowing snow-white beard and penetrating dark-brown eyes is standing at the bedside of a distraught young woman. She has covered her head with a sheet and is pleading for news of the two children her husband took from her.
?I know you are suffering terribly, but this is no way to bring back your children,? says the man with stern compassion. ?You have a college degree. You can do many things to help the other patients.?
More photos on flickr: Continue reading “Humanitarian to a nation”
In this lovely interview, Salima Hashmi, who has played such a vital role in promoting Pakistani art, talks about her father Faiz Ahmad Faiz. About writing poetry under military rule, about his meeting with Pablo Neruda and his feelings about the birth of Bangladesh.
Recorded at the Bellagio Centre in Italy in 2013.
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Memory, Justice, Healing evening at Making Democracy Real 2014 with Salman Rashid, Rajmohan Gandhi, Archana Rao and Rahul Bose
A week earlier, he had received a letter from his youngest sister Tahira. Having completed her higher secondary school exams, she was visiting with her older sister Zubaida whose husband was then a surveyor with the Survey of India and posted at Solan midway between Kalka and Simla. Tahira had written that Solan was rife with communal tension and that she wanted to be with the parents in Jalandhar. She asked her brother if he could come for her to take her home.
Continue reading “Memory, Justice, Healing”
In 1971, the Pakistani Army had free rein to kill at least 300,000 Bengalis and force 10 million people to flee.
In the 40-odd years that America and the Soviet Union faced off in the cold war, the people who presumed to run the world started with the knowledge that it was too dangerous, and possibly even suicidal, to attack one another. But the struggle was fierce, and what that meant in practice was that the competition played out in impoverished places like Cuba and Angola, where the great statesmen vied, eyed and subverted one another, and sometimes loosed their local proxies, all in the name of maintaining the slippery but all-important concept known as the balance of power.
The peace held, of course ? that is, the larger peace. The United States and the Soviet Union never came to blows, and the nuclear-tipped missiles never left their silos. For the third world, where the competition unfolded, it was another matter entirely. The wreckage spread far and wide, in toppled governments, loathsome dictators, squalid little wars and, here and there, massacres so immense that entire populations were nearly destroyed. Continue reading “Collateral Damage”
The 1971 memory project
I am starting this project with the hope that people across the globe can help me identify and hopefully trace as many people as possible in these photographs. I shall be regularly uploading images and linking them up with my social media. Please comment, link, tag, share these images and help me locate the people in them. Please also feel free to share insights into the situation, particularly if you happen to have been present.
I would like to complete this by 2021, when I would like to curate a major show to commemorate 50 years of Independence. Please feel free to send me pictures to. Please try to provide as much information as you can about the photograph and the photographer. Ideally we would like all the photographs to be credited.
Thanks for your help.
Here is the first image. It was taken by one of our finest photojournalists, and a dear friend,?Rashid Talukder. The photograph was taken on the 10th January 1972, when Mujib returned to an independent Bangladesh upon his release from captivity in Pakistan. The person dangling from the jeep with the Rollei hanging is another famous Bangladeshi photographer Aftab Ahmed:
You may tag individuals in this photograph here?(Requires Facebook)
UNTIL 1971 Pakistan was made up of two parts: west and east. Both Muslim-dominated territories were born out of India?s bloody partition 24 years earlier, though they existed awkwardly 1,600km apart, divided by hostile Indian territory. Relations between the two halves were always poor. The west dominated: it had the capital, Islamabad, and greater political, economic and military clout. Its more warlike Pashtuns and prosperous Punjabis, among others, looked down on Bengali easterners as passive and backward. Continue reading “The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide.”
How the gin and tonic became the British Empire?s secret weapon.
Photo by Brian Jones/iStockphoto/ThinkstockThe gin and tonic is having a moment. From Spain?where gin and tonics are practically the national drink?to our summer shores, the venerable G-and-T is everywhere. House-made tonic is on the menu in restaurants from coast to coast, and in many fine bars gin and tonics come in dozens of varieties, with special tonics and fruit garnishes matched to distinctive artisanal gins.
Of course, a lot of classic cocktails are enjoying a resurgence?part?Mad Men, part the boom in distinctive small-batch spirits, and part the waning fad of faux speakeasies with handcrafted bitters and bartenders in arm garters chipping away at blocks of ice.
But the gin and tonic is different. For one, it requires no unusual ingredients, and it?s very simple to make. More interestingly, the gin and tonic has a storied history that places it at the heart of the largest empire the world has ever known. Indeed, it is not too much of a stretch to say that the gin and tonic was as essential a weapon for the British Empire as the Gatling gun. No less an authority on imperial power than Winston Churchill once declared, ?The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen?s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.?
What was the source of the gin and tonic?s great power? As is sometimes said of tequila, the gin and tonic is not just a drink; it?s a drug.
The story begins with the jewel of the British Empire: India. British India comprised both more and less than modern-day India. More, in that it included large parts of what are today Pakistan and Bangladesh. Less, in that much of India under the British Raj was quasi-independent, in so-called princely states that were nominally sovereign but largely under England?s thumb. India was so important to the empire that in 1876 Queen Victoria added the moniker ?Empress of India? to her title. Her successors continued that practice right up till 1948, under George VI (he of?The King?s Speech?fame).
Controlling India, in short, was central to the British Empire and to Britain?s sense of itself as the world?s leading power. What allowed Britain, a small island far off in the northern reaches of Europe, to rule over the vast semi-continent of India for so long is a subject of some debate. But in?Jared Diamond?s famous words, Europe?s military superiority was built on a mix of ?guns, germs, and steel.?
Guns and steel clearly favored powers like Britain. These innovations allowed Britain (and other European countries) to deploy weapons such as machine guns at a time when many societies around the world still used swords and spears. But germs were more equivocal. Malaria in particular was a virulent killer of colonized and colonizer alike. While malaria has a long history in Europe, it began to be eradicated in the 19th?century, and even earlier it was never as deadly as it was in tropical locations. So as Europeans established colonies in the tropics, they faced a serious and often mortal threat from the mosquito-borne disease. Soldiers and civilian officials alike succumbed to it.
In the 17th?century, the Spanish had discovered that indigenous peoples in what is now Peru used a kind of bark to address various ?fevers.? Stripped from the cinchona tree, the bark seemed to work well for malaria. The ?Jesuit?s bark,? as it was known, quickly became a favored treatment for malaria in Europe. (Before the discovery of the cinchona tree, European malaria remedies included throwing the patient head-first into a bush in the hope he would get out quickly enough to leave his fever behind.)
Eventually it became clear that cinchona bark could be used not only to treat malaria, but also to prevent it. The bark?and its active ingredient, quinine powder?was a powerful medicine. But it was also a powerful new weapon in the European quest to conquer and rule distant lands.
Quinine powder quickly became critical to the health of the empire. By the 1840s British citizens and soldiers in India were using 700 tons of cinchona bark annually for their protective doses of quinine. Quinine powder kept the troops alive, allowed officials to survive in low-lying and wet regions of India, and ultimately permitted a stable (though surprisingly small) British population to prosper in Britain?s tropical colonies. Quinine was so bitter, though, that British officials stationed in India and other tropical posts took to mixing the powder with soda and sugar. ?Tonic water,? of a sort, was born.
Still, tonic water was basically a home brew until an enterprising Brit named Erasmus Bond introduced the first commercial tonic water in 1858?perhaps not coincidentally, the very same year the British government ousted the East India Co. and took over direct control of India, following the so-called?Sepoy Mutiny, a violent rebellion and counterattack.
Bond?s new tonic was soon followed by Schweppes? introduction, in 1870, of ?Indian Quinine Tonic,? a product specifically aimed at the growing market of overseas British who, every day, had to take a preventative dose of quinine. Schweppes and other commercial tonics proliferated both in the colonies and, eventually, back in Britain itself.
Gin, which in earlier days had been associated with vice and social decay among the lower classes in Britain?take a look at William Hogarth?s famous print?Gin Lane?for a taste?was by the 19th?century making its long march toward respectability. It was only natural that at some point during this time an enterprising colonial official combined his (or her) daily dose of protective quinine tonic with a shot (or two) of gin. Rather than knock back a bitter glass of tonic in the morning, why not enjoy it in the afternoon with a healthy gin ration?
The gin and tonic was born?and the cool, crisp concoction could, as Churchill observed, start saving all those English lives.
And American lives. Quinine proved as critical to the battle over the Pacific in World War II as it had to the struggle over India. As Amy Stewart notes in her new book,?The Drunken Botanist, Japan seized Java, the home of huge cinchona plantations, from the Dutch in 1942, cutting off nearly all of the Allied supply of quinine. The last American plane to fly out of the Philippines before it fell to the Japanese carried some 4 million quinine seeds. Unfortunately, the effort was largely in vain: The trees grew too slowly to provide sufficient quinine to the Allied war effort.
The gin and tonic, of course, was not enough to keep the British Empire alive either. Churchill, and many other British leaders, fervently believed that imperialism was essential if Britain was to remain a truly great power. But the strength and appeal of independence and self-determination was overwhelming, and India could no longer be held down by a small coterie of foreign officials, even with their quinine-based cocktails. By 1947 India?and Pakistan?were independent nations. Kenya, Jamaica, Malaya, and other tropical colonies soon followed.
Today, ?empire? is a dirty word. But the gin and tonic lives on. The drink went from a bitter medicinal tipple in tropical outposts to a mainstay of British clubs and bars by World War I. In postwar America, the gin and tonic became synonymous with WASP summer retreats and country club lounges. Then, in the ?70s and ?80s, gin was almost forgotten as first classic cocktails went out of fashion and then vodka began to explode in popularity. Now the gin and tonic is back, especially at the very high end, where artisanal gins from Brooklyn, San Francisco, and all parts in between can be mixed with special tonics like Fever-Tree (get it?) or Fentimans.
But the gin and tonic certainly did the British Empire a lot of good. So as you mix your next one, remember the curious history of the drink?or is it a drug??in your hand.
Troy Patterson on finding the perfect gin and tonic:
The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore [email protected] tribune.com.pk
The passing of the first death anniversary of?Neil Armstrong?last week is an opportunity to reflect on our own connection (admittedly flimsy) with the first man on the moon. Two years before Armstrong landed on the moon, Ghulam Abbas wrote?Dhanak, one of the best satirical short stories (The short story has been ably adapted by Shahid Nadeem into a play named?Hotel Mohenjodaro) of all times, and unnervingly prescient. Written in 1967, the story begins with the first man landing on moon, not Armstrong, but a Pakistani PAF Captain, Adam Khan. Local and international dignitaries gather on the rooftop garden of the 71-storied Hotel Mohenjodaro in Karachi to listen to Adam Khan?s message from the moon. His brief message is, ?I am Captain Adam Khan. I come from the district of Jhang in Punjab ? I have landed safely. All praise to Allah ? Pakistan Zindabad.? Continue reading “The Dark Side of the Moon”
Tariq Ali, in this exclusive interview, seamlessly switches from contemporary historian to scholar-at-large to polemicist to raconteur, as he tackles many of the impinging issues of our times. By SASHI KUMAR, Frontline
He was in southern India after nearly 30 years. He had come to Kerala to deliver the Chinta Ravindran Memorial Lecture at Thrissur. My friend, the well-known writer Paul Zacharia and I were showing him the sights and we had just been to the site of the archaeological dig at Pattanam near Kodungalloor where he saw the unearthed pottery and artefacts that were reconstructing the fascinating story of an early society in these parts, already in maritime contact with West Asian ports and ancient Rome. From there we proceeded to the nearby Cheraman juma masjid, considered the first mosque in India, and perhaps the second in the world, dating back to A.D. 629. There was only a little evidence of that ancient patrimony left; the quaint old native structure had been all but pulled down some 50 years back and a more commodious, more standardised edifice built around it. All that was left were some pillars, a section of a doorway, another of a beamed ceiling and a crumbling staircase leading up to the attic, all in wood. But a photograph of the structure, as it was in 1905, hung on the wall. Continue reading “The New World Disorder”
Abdul Sattar Edhi
The most remarkable man I’ve ever met. If ever a man deserved a Nobel Prize… but then he’s a bearded muslim from Pakistan, so Kissinger and Obama and Peres will be given the Nobel Prize, but Edhi will not. Neither of course did Gandhi!
Pakistan: Hope amidst the chaos
Humanitarian to a nation